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Author: Ira Wagler Title: Growing Up Amish Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers Publish Date: June 28, 2011 Buy: Amazon Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley Book Blurb: One fateful starless night, 17-year-old Ira Wagler got up at 2 AM, left a scribbled note under his pillow, packed all of his earthly belongings into in a little black duffel bag, and walked away from his home in the Amish settlement of Bloomfield, Iowa. Now, in this heartwarming memoir, Ira paints a vivid portrait of Amish life—from his childhood days on the family farm, his Rumspringa rite of passage at age 16, to his ultimate decision to leave the Amish Church for good at age 26. Growing Up Amish is the true story of one man’s quest to discover who he is and where he belongs. Readers will laugh, cry, and be inspired by this charming yet poignant coming of age story set amidst the backdrop of one of the most enigmatic cultures in America today—the Old Order Amish.
Review: Any person that is curious about the Amish culture will want to pick up this story. Ira has a wonderfully candid way of telling the story of his growing up years in the Amish settlements in Canada, Iowa and later Indiana. He shares openly the ways of a culture that most "English" folk don't understand. However, it is obvious that though he's made his peace with his past, he doesn't seem to care for the culture/religion that he was raised in.
Ira leaves the community several times but the reader is never sure why, except that he wants his freedom. It is during his rumspringa (running around years) that I found it a bit difficult to like him. The first few times he leaves, he seems like spoiled child running off to party in the big new world outside his Amish community. Where that is understandable he also shows little common sense.
I found myself wanting to know more about his reasons for leaving. What was it about the church that kept pushing him away? What about his relationship with his family? I felt a great deal of sympathy for his parents. Several of the children left the church and in the community, it reflected badly on them as parents.
Ira writes of his struggles to stay Amish, how he finds peace and eventually why he finally leaves for good. What he doesn't give his readers is a clear reason why he kept coming back. Was it totally homesickness? A real fear of eternal damnation. Gotta love the Amish, they believe if you leave the church that you have no chance of redemption...straight to hell you go.
He certainly paints a different picture of the Amish that what most of us "English" get when read the novels of Beverly Lewis and Wanda E. Brunstetter. Ira's writing is very engaging, and though there were many times when I wanted to take him aside and give him a little what for, for his behavior, I really enjoyed reading his story. I do still wish he had opened up more about his relationships with his family. Still this is a great read and it does offer some insight on this rather unusual religious community.